Ep. 20 – Post Pandemic Work Life Cadence
Mich Bondesio and her 6 guests contemplate areas of focus to support better work-life cadence, as we move out of the pandemic into a new way of living and working. This is the final episode of Season 3.
Any resources referenced in the episode are listed below the transcript.
Season 3 features the following people:
Catarina King is a dynamic and passionate community builder, and one of the co-founders of coworking space called Society1. https://www.society1.co.uk/
Rashmir Balasubramaniam is an executive coach and strategic advisor to current and emerging female leaders of social innovation and systems change. https://www.rashmir.net/
Amy Young is a senior account manager at ICG, a well-established, award-winning creative agency in the North West of England. https://www.icg.agency/
Garth Dew is a video producer and business owner who helps brands and companies to create marketing and event content. https://www.gdvideo.co.uk/
Ed Matthews-Gentle leads a creative business support programme in Lancashire, and he’s also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. https://www.creativelancashire.org/
James Taplin is an ecologist and innovation consultant for a national innovation agency https://www.ukri.org/ and a writer and bladesmith. https://www.broadcloth.co.uk/
Creating Cadence Transcript – Ep. 20
So welcome to Episode 20, the 4th and final episode of Season 3 of the Creating Cadence podcast.
For this season, I’ve been experimenting with something a little different. To recap, I invited 6 creative thinkers from my network, who work in a variety of different sectors and situations, to share their thoughts and experiences based on a set of specific questions relating to hybrid working, digital wellness and productivity.
A quick reminder of who my panel are:
Catarina King is the co-founder of Society1, a coworking space.
Rashmir Balasubramaniam is an independent coach, leadership consultant and advisor to women.
Ed Matthews-Gentle is the senior project lead for a business support programme called Creative Lancashire.
James Taplin is the innovation lead in the urban systems team at Innovate UK.
Amy Young is a senior account manager at a strategic marketing agency called ICG.
And Garth Dew is a videographer and live stream specialist and the owner of a video production company called GD Video.
Like you and me, my guests have experienced and been forced to adapt to the requirements of this dramatic time of change we’ve undergone over the past 18 months or so.
In the previous episode, my interviewees shared their thoughts on what they struggle with most when it comes to online working. They also offered some excellent personal tips for ways to protect our attention, maintain focus and support our wellbeing, creativity and productivity. So check out episode 19, if you haven’t listened already.
In this episode, we’ll be looking at where my guests think we may need more support going forward. And they’ll share a few extra observations about where we’re at, based on their specific context or experience.
I’ll be bringing these thoughts together to wrap up the final episode of this season.
Please note, these conversations and responses have been recorded in real-world situations, so you may hear the sounds of traffic or roadworks, people chatting in the background, creaky chairs, rustling headphones or random internet connectivity issues.
If you’re ready, let’s dive in…
So let’s start by looking at the initial focus of this episode.
In a world which is increasingly online, I was keen to know where my panel think people may need more support when it comes to helping us manage our work-life cadence better?
Catarina King sets the tone for this answer with a quick response about the conundrum that has plagued ALL of us over the past year.
I think the lack of separation between work life and home life has been tough for a lot of people. Finding a way to work at home but be able to switch off at the end of the day is definitely a skill that requires mastering, and I think a lot of people will need support with this going forward.
Incidentally, this issue with switching off was also referenced by Amy Young and Ed Matthews-Gentle in the last episode, reiterating it’s importance in our future.
Next, Garth Dew also elaborates on Catarina’s point, providing good examples of the digital addiction we’ve all been increasingly affected by in one way or another over this time.
The obvious one is getting away from devices and screens, I think the more you work remotely, the more you work at home, you never switch those devices off. And I’ve definitely seen that in my home.
My partner is a lawyer, she’s got a laptop on the kitchen table that never goes away. So it’s so easy just to open that up and check email and reply to email even late into the night.
When you run your own business, you’re doing social media email, with the device. So it’s always easy just to open that up. And you almost become addicted to refreshing that every 10-15 minutes.
I think somehow people have got to find a way to disconnect from their devices. But it’s down to them, I think it’s very difficult to do that.
I tried buying a burner phone during lockdown, like a little Nokia. And I was putting my iPhone away at the weekend and just having a Nokia for emergencies and text messaging. But it was very hard to adopt it because you rely on your phone so much for even things that you wouldn’t describe as potentially disruptive, like finding directions, getting access to the CO working space where we work, paying for things.
So I’m interested in the technology that’s coming out that’s adopting that Nokia-style functionality, but with the ability to also do certain things with the internet. I know there’s a few phones coming out and as a big movement towards that, that I think is going to get more popular.
Since this interview was recorded, Garth has subsequently taken his experiments further. He recently invested in a Punkt phone, spelled PUNKT, and it pretty much only allows him to text and call. Garth has been sharing more on LinkedIn about his experience of adapting to and working around the restrictions this new lo-fi tech creates for him.
Next, Rashmir Balasubramaniam goes a step further regarding Catarina and Garth’s points about finding ways to set boundaries. Here Rashmir explains two elements which sit at the core of this issue, namely technology and trust.
So the first one is technology. Because, you know, technology is such a wonderful enabler. And it we can also become slaves to it. And so helping people take time that’s offline, and be productive offline, I think is incredibly important going forward. Even just encouraging people to move away from their screens. Is is going to be something that I think is, is vital for health and wellbeing, but also productivity.
And that doesn’t come easy. When we’re caught up in this mode of feeling that we have to be productive all of the time. You know, creative time can be incredibly productive in the longer term, especially but may not be seen or understood that way in the short term.
Reflection, I think falls into that similar category, I often encourage my clients to spend, to dedicate time, you know, 30 minutes or an hour, where they’re doing nothing but reflecting on something. And it’s incredible how productive that is, but it’s almost as though I have to give them permission to do that. And so that would be something I would encourage more managers and leaders to enable in their people.
So technology is the first thing, trust is the second. And what I mean by that is, I think there’s a couple of different elements to trust. There’s, you know, do we trust each other when we’re working together, especially in organisations? Is there a culture of trust, a culture of empowerment, a culture of encouraging and enabling people to bring the best of who they are to the table? And that takes work that doesn’t just happen automatically, you know that that requires investment in building that kind of a learning culture in which experimentation and failure is understood and encouraged, wisely encouraged, obviously.
But there’s also another element of trust, and that is self trust. And it may sound curious, I think I’m gonna give you an example of, you know, when I, when I actually went solo, it took me a couple of years of running my own sort of small consulting firm to realise I was actually my own worst boss.
The fact that I was I was no longer employed, I was still employing all of the bad habits and patterns that I had resisted, or rejected in the organisations that I’d worked in, and it took me some time to learn. I could make choices that felt right, but then second, that it was learning to trust myself my instincts, you know, my sensing into what was wanting to happen, my, you know, own wisdom and knowing around how best to be and how best to be productive, that were really important. So it sounds like a funny thing. But I something that I think we could see more of an organisation is managers and leaders, supporting people and trusting not just each other, but themselves.
A great example from Rashmir about how without the right tools and skills, we end up being our own worst bosses. Self-leadership takes practice, and support in a community or work setting can help. And her point about improving levels of support in different contexts is something that cropped up several times in my discussions with my guests.
Like Rashmir, Ed Matthews-Gentle also narrowed in on self-leadership and technology. Ed observes how technology dominates our lives, yet both we (and the creators of that tech) don’t take enough responsibility for the impacts it can have on our lives. We commonly don’t seem to see it as part of the larger ecosystem in which it sits.
I really think that it’s similar to what I’ve said before. It’s recognising I think, where those those stress points are, and understanding where the where the sort of triggers are maybe that maybe something’s not right. You know, if you’re working from home, working in isolation, even though you may be having these conversations with others, it’s, it’s quite hard maybe to recognise yourself, maybe, where, where there’s actually patterns emerging in our behaviours, you know, and you become, it becomes a culture, you know, around you.
There’s so much of the conversation now is about tech. Really, you know, and I think but, but, but tech, it’s just, it’s a tool, and it’s a great tool to have and it gives us the ability to find solutions, but it’s part of a solution, it’s not the only thing.
You know, you have to think about things in a more holistic way. We are humans, after all, you know, humans evolve through interaction and engagement, but we also survive, you know, through interaction, and tech is … some have concerns about it. But it’s, it’s often around the sort of motivations of those who actually are the sorts of the key holders in a lot of that tech as well.
You know, as I said, I think, you know, and, and that motivation about how and why you use it,that burden of responsibility or that duty of responsibility, it’s down to us to almost set those parameters, you know, in terms of asking ourselves, why are we doing this? You know is there another way to do this, maybe what impact, you know, what my decisions have on others around me, like, who I engage with, you know, and I think we need to be asking ourselves more those types of questions in the future.
Incidentally, Ed’s organisation, Creative Lancashire recently commissioned a series of long-form articles about Delivering Design at a Distance.
Researched and compiled by Alexandra O’Toole and Jonathan Ball, they include contributions from leading designers and creative practitioners about the challenges and opportunities associated with hybrid working and delivering design and creative services online.
Tying in with Ed’s point about taking responsibility, Amy Young’s response about where people might need more help was to suggest that we need to enable more opportunities for people to speak up and speak out.
She pointed out that even though we’ve all experienced similar moments in the pandemic, people are on different paths as we come out of this, and we are all processing things differently. So Amy feels it’s important to keep talking, to learn to ask for help, but also to offer help, and that connects with what Rashmir and Ed had to say about support and connection.
Amy indicated that these aspects of a supportive, communicative culture go hand in hand with how her company, ICG, works as an agency, and that this approach is closely tied to their company values.
I agree with these sentiments. Creating opportunities for connection helps to build resilience, something that is incredibly important, especially as burnout is on the rise in our current situation.
The research indicates that strong social connections and support (both at work and in our personal life) are good prevention mechanisms to reduce our stress load – an overload of which is the precursor to burnout.
But it works both ways, we have to be prepared to give, as much as we need others to give support to us. And to do that requires taking more responsibility and being more intentional in how we work and more mindful about how we live. Because we can’t give from an empty cup.
Changing tack slightly but still following the idea of community and connection, during our conversation, Rashmir also shared interesting points about the shift in paradigms we’re currently undergoing and how it’s going to be important for us to be able to think differently and connect differently in this new age. There are new skills to be learned and we need to be open.
And then I guess the final just quick, quick point here is, I think we’re shifting this whole decade, I believe, is going to be quite a fundamental decade of shift. And we’ve still got a large legacy of the industrial paradigm. And yes, there is the knowledge worker paradigm and the the kind of technological paradigm mired in with the economic paradigms that still drives so much of what we do and how we do it.
But what I think we what we are moving towards, in some sense, or are wanting to move towards is something that’s much more creative, more emergent, more flowing, more purpose, aligned, more impact oriented, and that is a shift that people will need help to make, because so much of how our world works is still survival based and security based.
And that is, in some sense, an antithesis to a creative orientation, a creative mindset, and a world where we actually create what we truly want, rather than default into what has been.
But investing in building our capacities and our capabilities, to to be aware, not just self awareness, but also awareness of the larger patterns of life around us. That seems to me incredibly important going forward. Because that will allow us to sense into what is wanting to emerge to know when and how to act and engage when and how to hold back. It might even allow us to evolve deeper, richer relationships, whether they’re remote or in person. And I think it could also allow us to experience more, not just individual flow, but collective flow.
Because collective flow is so key to creativity, and to creating things that are fundamentally different, and I don’t see a lot of investments in these kinds of capacities as yet. We’re still a little overly focused on individual and organisational productivity.
So that’s that I think is really is really key.
The other the other thing I would say is I think we could all use learning the skills to challenge, to inspire, to envision, to dream together and to enable. And, and I say that because it’s, again, this idea of defaulting into what we know, and how we’ve always done things, because many people are just scared to dream of a fundamentally different world or to imagine that and until we imagine it, we’re not going to be able to create it.
This is an important point about us needing to adapt to a fundamentally different world. One we need to be able to imagine first. To be able to connect with that vision, there will be an ongoing requirement for creativity and innovation.
Now although the constraint of the pandemic may have bred some forms of innovation, James Taplin also notes that our restricted breadth of experience during this time, with no amplitude, often resulting in a sense of apathy, has stifled some forms of innovation too.
So innovation kind of happens at the spaces between things like the most of the time innovation happens when you bring different ideas together. And what we’ve seen, the problem we’ve had throughout the course of last year is you haven’t had that difference in, you haven’t had those ideas rubbing up against each other any longer the way you would do. And you haven’t had the serendipity of seeing something while you’re being out and about the kind of triggers a thought or, or, or looks at how or makes you think but how could you solve that in a different way?
In the beginning, actually, again, constraint breeds innovation. So we saw lots of businesses instantly pivoting and creating new solutions based on the new circumstances. So there was upwelling of innovation there.
But the sort of innovation that I’m looking at, which is about how do you create new systems and integrated systems in cities? And how do you help people live better, fundamentally, is based on getting new ideas, smashing new ideas together and taking an idea from the water system and comparing an idea from the energy system to create something novel.
So that that’s been a problem. So. So this sort of this, yeah, not being able to travel. And not having that, that kind of that workout on the road that has that stifled innovation, I think, and it’s caused, I think, probably stopped innovation and a lot of other businesses as well.
As things open up more, we can take steps to help our creativity, critical thinking and innovative capabilities to keep growing and thriving. So that we can learn to tap more easily into the collective flow that Rashmir spoke about.
Connection creates community and as my guests have already hinted in previous episodes, centralised hubs and local communities will feature more prominently in our hybrid future of work.
But whether we find and offer connection and support locally or globally, we are going to need these different types of connections and diverse communities to help us find the solutions to the enormous challenges we’re facing in our world.
These are not easy problems to solve, but the good news is that there are ways through. And as surviving and learning to thrive despite a pandemic has shown those of us who are still here, we are stronger and more capable than we think.
Solving these problems starts small, with ourselves, by becoming more intentional in how we work. By building stronger self-care foundations. By engaging with the world and our work in a way that supports us better. By setting boundaries but also by being open.
One little step at a time, we can lead by example. And the more we give in this way, the more we end up getting back.
A very big thank you to my guests for this season … Rashmir Balasubramanium, Catarina King, Amy Young, Ed Matthews-Gentle, Garth Dew and James Taplin. I’m so grateful to you for sharing their thoughts and experiences, to remind us all of the challenges, but also of the opportunities that lie ahead.
If you have thoughts about this episode or you have a question or thought relating to productivity, wellbeing or hybrid working, then I’d love to hear from you. You can write to: hello at creatingcadence.co
If you’re liking what you’re hearing on the Creating Cadence podcast, please make my day by giving it a 4 or 5 star review via Apple Podcasts.
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Season 4 of the podcast will be back in September 2021. So until next time, please take care out there. Be brave, think big and keep moving forwards, one step at a time.
Thanks for listening and bye for now.
Design at a Distance